Berry family joined politics, helped shape county

May 23, 2007 12:00 am

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

Thomas Johnson Turner Berry was one of Del Norte County's early pioneers, who brought his last name here from Howard County, Iowa.

Born in December 1858, he moved here 20 years later in , arriving as the escort of the family of doctor who had set up his practice here.

According to "Del Norte County Pioneers," published by Esther Ruth Smith, the physician hired Berry to bring his family west on an immigration train.

In 1950, Smith contacted Berry's son, George Thomas Berry, Sr., to clarify information she had gathered for the publication.

He told her that he did not know his family's genealogy, but recalled that, "In those days the railroads ran immigrant trains and furnished only transportation.

"The travelers furnished their own accommodations. It was in such a train that he (Thomas Johnston Turner Berry) traveled."

After arriving here, Thomas Johnston Turner Berry decided to stay.

He worked with Frank Burtschell, who owned a livery stable, eventually taking over the business and naming it Eclipse Livery and Feed Stable.

The business straddled a block between Second and Third streets.

Berry married Emma (Jones) Livingston and fathered two children, George Thomas Berry and Ellen Berry.

The elder Berry served two terms as the county's Republican assemblyman, elected in 1901 and 1907.

The political bent ran in the Berry family. Berry's father sat as a judge in Colorado. His uncle, Charles Berry, published the "Cripple Creek Times" during the days that the storied was "a roaring Colorado Mining Camp."

The uncle later served as sergeant at arms of the Colorado State Senate in 1905.

During Berry's tenure as a legislator, his son recalled that "Del Norte, Trinity and Siskiyou constituted the First District, and under the old convention system each county took turns in sending the representative."

The son also told Smith that his father "was a ‘dyed in the wool' Republican, having been a Lincoln man at the time of the Civil War."

Berry represented the county at the State Assembly as a Republican, holding the office during the 1901 session during which legislators enacted the last change in one of the boundary lines of Del Norte County.

His son, George, served as a page boy during the same session.

In his letter to Smith, the son recollected that the Klamath River had been one of the county's boundary lines.

"The boundary shifted whenever the river changed its course, causing the Assessors and Tax Collectors no end of trouble," the younger Berry wrote. "My father and the Humboldt assemblyman (Mel Roberts) and senator (Thos. Selvage) got together and agreed upon a trade of land up the river for land along the lower reaches, the result is the present boundary."

George Berry was able to visit with Jack London when the author visited Crescent City during the summer of 1911.

"I have a photo showing him with his four-in-hand before the W.A. Phillips store," the younger Berry said.

Later in his life, George Berry and his wife both taught at Del Norte County High School.

Their son, George Thomas Berry Jr., served as justice of the peace of Crescent Township. His relative Ellen Berry Jones, born Dec. 1, 1891, became a teacher in the Del Norte County School system.